Fingers is an insane movie. It inhabits the same netherworld of late 1970s New York as Taxi Driver, a world of crime infested R Crumb Hustler filth pits with everyone wearing boots and feathers. That shared urban DNA spawns a man similar to DeNiro's Travis Bickle in Harvey Keitel's character Jimmy, a spaced-out loner who blasts early 60s bubblegum pop from his transistor tape deck that travels with him wherever he goes. Keitel divides his time between working as an "enforcer" collecting on his father's bookie business (his father played by the delightfully raspy Michael V. Gazzo), and practicing for a audition to become a concert pianist like his mother. Similar to Travis, Jimmy is infatuated with a cool indifferent woman (played by Mia Farrow's sister Tisa), and is prone to bursts of violence fueled by a lack of any true warmth or affection from the people that surround him. Even though it can erupt into violence at any minute Fingers is a movie full of delight--the best moments are watching Harvey Keitel lost in his own world, in his transistor radio, defending The Jamie's "Summertime Summertime" to an uptight businessman in a restaurant, playing air Bach with his hands in a prison holding cell to bemused prisoners, and cheering up a crying woman on the street, drawing her into his out-of-step world where the search for love and devotion may remain unfulfilled but the possibility will linger.
Fingers was remade in France in 2005 by Jacques Audiard and titled The Beat That My Heart Skipped. Starring Romain Duris, the movie is at times a scene by scene retelling of the original. But the translation to 2000s France normalizes much of the scenery and mood of the story, and the characters are overall more realistic and less colorful than in the original, with the running time lengthened to accommodate additional subplots. The biggest change is redrawing Duris' character Thomas as a hip and well-balanced young man simply caught between two worlds, reasonably enjoying his music on a personal Walkman. The Beat That My Heart Skipped is may be more well-rounded a film overall, but by diluting the inherent strangeness of Keitel's original character the remake is somewhat forgettable--but Fingers, on the other hand (ha ha) is a movie unlike any other, one that will haunt you with it's jubilant depictions of loneliness and violence.